(Patricia Cohen’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/26.)
You might not know it from the sold-out crowds at Broadway’s big-budget musicals like “The Book of Mormon” or “Wicked,” but theater is the artistic discipline in America that is losing audience share at the fastest rate in recent years.
According to a survey on public participation scheduled to be released on Thursday by the National Endowment for the Arts, one out of every three Americans, or about 78 million people, visited an art exhibition or attended a performing arts event in 2012. That figure represents a drop across
the board since the last survey in 2008, but the slide was steepest for musicals and plays. For musicals, the 9 percent drop in the attendance rate between 2008 and 2012 was the first statistically significant change in that category in more than 25 years. Straight plays fared even worse, with a 12
percent drop over the same period, a figure that has contributed to a whopping 33 percent rate of decline over the past decade.